"It's a group dynamic," Kang told Variety of the post-Rick Grimes era.
Instead of any one character being decreed the "new Rick Grimes," those responsibilities have been doled out to the series' expansive ensemble cast, with upped roles for Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Carol (Melissa McBride).
In the wake of Lincoln's departure, the actors themselves have adopted his on-set role.
"Norman sort of has Daryl's attitude, like 'I don't wanna be called number one.' In his own way, he leads. I think Danai is a wonderful leader as well. She has her own style of things. She very much looks out to make sure things are fair for people. Melissa is a wonderful presence that anchors stuff when she's there," Kang said.
"At this point, I don't think any one person has to be like, 'OK, I'm the leader, guys.' Everybody just knows whenever you're in a scene and you're the senior person, you set this example of the professionalism and the respect that has been the vibe of the show since the beginning, which was set by Andy. I think that's a big part of his legacy to the show."
In expressing a tribute to Lincoln over the summer, Gurira dubbed Lincoln a "quintessential leader" and "the best leading man on television."
"There's something so beautiful about his form of leadership, and it does come from those first moments that you're on the set and you're welcomed into the family, and he is right there, present, loving, generous, kind, supportive, so you immediately feel that there's someone — the leader — wants you to succeed, and is thrilled when you do," Gurira said.
"And that can only make you better, and it can only teach you how to be better to others as well. I was saying to him — he's left us with the example of how to carry on, because he gave such a beautiful example himself. I couldn't say enough amazing things about this man, quite honestly."
Speaking to Variety during San Diego Comic-Con, both Reedus and Negan star actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan hailed Lincoln for his friendship and leadership, pointing to him as the "quarterback" of the team.
"He is the leader of this show, and everyone kind of follows his lead," Morgan said. "He leads with his heart. That's a very rare quality."0comments
Reedus said during The Walking Dead's Hall H panel "you can't take Rick's place," and has since shut down rumors his Daryl Dixon will be replacing Rick Grimes.
"No," Reedus told ComicBook.com when asked if he's taking over leading man duties. "I don't think anyone's gonna step up and be Rick."